What Color is That? How to select the perfect paint color.

What color is that?  
This is the question I get asked most often.. "what color is that?  Mostly it is in reference to a project published on the Internet?
This apparently is not an uncommon question.  Customer service agents at Pottery Barn were also inundated with the same question every time they released a new catalog. So, they partnered with Benjamin Moore and now they offer official Benjamin Moore Color chips in the store and online. If you don’t see the small print, no problem, the Customer Service Representatives at Pottery Barn can tell you what color is behind that couch on page 54.
This is all well and good; however, I am sure many out there have then commenced to paint a room that color and it just did not turn out the way they thought it would.  This is because color is amazing.  It has the ability to change the one next to it just like your eyes change when you wear certain colors. It is affected by its surroundings especially the lighting. The light bulbs in the fixtures throughout the room, or even in the same fixture may not even be the same.  The light at different times of the year and in different areas of the house will appear completely different as well. 

When Clawson Architects photographs a space, we use a professional and he sets up all kinds of lights. I have even helped change the light bulbs in the fixtures and hang white sheets or blackout curtains in windows to diffuse the light to get an image that will communicate the design intent best.  Then, because I use a double screen at work, depending on which monitor I have the image opened on, the color appears differently.  The images also prints differently depending on which printer I send it to. 

So when someone calls or writes to me and asks what color something is, the easy answer would be to just tell them a number.  They won’t get even close to the same results, but they are begging me for the number. 

So, if you see a color you like, I would like to recommend you do three things:

1.   Try to capture the color with one of the Color App Catchers. I like Benjamin Moore’s.  Or hold up a fan deck from any of the paint companies out there and try to pick one that is close to what you are seeing.
2.   Buy small can of the paint and paint pieces of white poster board.  Tape it up in different parts of the room and look at it at different times of day. It may take several tries but it will be worth it.
3.   If you have control over the light bulbs in your fixtures, buy ones that are “daylight”. If the fixture has multiple bulbs, and one goes out change all of them at the same time. 

There is so much hesitation over color.  As an Architect and Interior Designer, I select colors for clients all the time.  I use the process described above.  It works. How do I know when I have found the right color?  When your friends come in and say “What color is that?”  Or in the case of the exterior, you will see people standing out in front of your house with a paint fan deck…the brave ones ring the bell and ask.